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These sparkling wines effervesce with heritage and tradition

Packaged in bottles you might not expect, these wines deliver gentle bubbles and fascinating backstories

Italian and Greek sparkling wines.
Italian and Greek sparkling wines.Ellen Bhang

Some bubbly wines hide in plain sight, housed in bottles that don’t trumpet their effervescent status. Unconventional vessels are par for the course, and none of these sparklers are sealed with chubby Champagne corks.

An Italian pignoletto and a Greek orange wine are examples of the type. The first — crafted by Manaresi in the hills of Bologna — comes in a high-shouldered bottle, the kind you might associate with Bordeaux. The second wine, from Domaine Glinavos in Epirus, Greece, is packaged in a squat, brown-glass vessel. At first glance, you wonder: Is it a dessert wine? Or a beer?

Each bottle communicates subtly about the bubbles within. On the label of the Manaresi, in tiny print, is frizzante — Italian for “semi-sparkling.” The term denotes a wine under lower pressure, which means the CO2 inside feels gentler than, say, Prosecco or Cava. Soft effervescence also characterizes the orange wine, a style that takes white grapes and ferments skins and juice together, like a red wine. When you pick up the Glinavos, notice the crown cap. It’s the same kind of closure that seals a bottle of beer, reinforcing the “semi-sparkling” description on the label.

The wines get their sparkle from a second fermentation that occurs in a pressurized tank, and both offer a lighter touch — under 12 percent — when it comes to alcohol by volume. Most importantly, these delectable pours are crafted by makers intent on celebrating family heritage and regional tradition.


Donatella Agostoni, who runs her family’s estate in the wine region of Colli Bolognesi, is the granddaughter of Paolo Manaresi, the lauded painter, sculptor, and engraver who lived for almost the entire span of the 20th century. She and her husband, Fabio Bottonelli, cultivate grapes in their organic-in-practice vineyards. They craft a fizzy white from pignoletto, a vigorous and ancient variety that thrives in central Italy. Lively and elegant, it’s a lovely tribute to Agostoni’s grandfather.


Lefteris Glinavos, a native of northwest Greece, also champions grapes of his homeland. In the 1970s, he was among a cadre of winemakers determined to show the world that Greek wines, made from indigenous varieties, could be world-class. At his winery Domaine Glinavos, now supervised by his son Thomas, Lefteris revived an old style of wine that’s traditional to the mountainous region of Ioannina. Yeasts in these wines would go dormant over the winter, only to be reawakened by the warmth of spring, kicking off refermentation and creating delicious fizz. In the past, wine bottles were difficult to procure in this remote region — so beer bottles became the vessels of choice.

It’s only natural that the winemaker chose a bottle design that, like the wine inside, nods to the past. Fittingly, Glinavos calls his creation “Paleokerisio,” which translates to “old-fashioned.”

Manaresi Pignoletto Frizzante Brilliant platinum in hue, this softly sparkling pour offers scents of yellow orchard fruit and tart citrus, leading to a bright palate of Meyer lemon, stone fruit, and salt, buoyed up by elegant, understated froth. Pair with crudo and oysters or creamy chevre on frisée. 11.5 percent ABV. $20-$24 for 750 ml. Distributed by Mucci Imports. Available at American Provisions, South Boston, 617-269-6100; Common Vines, Downtown Crossing, 617-800-6189; Buckalew’s General Store, Melrose, 781-665-9622.

Domaine Glinavos “Paleokerisio” 2019 Crafted primarily from debina, a hyper-local white variety of northwest Greece, this copper-colored pour expresses aromas of dried apricot, tea, and brown butter. Bruised stone fruit and honeyed sweetness are balanced by a savory, oxidative note and appetizing texture. This gentle bubbly is a shape-shifter, equally at home with pork loin roast or cold noodles with Vietnamese dipping sauce. 10.5 percent ABV. $16-$20 for 500 ml. Distributed by Vineyard Road. Available at Porter Square Wine & Spirits, Cambridge, 617-547-3110; Bauer Wine & Spirits, Back Bay, 617-262-0363; Craft and Cru, Milton, 617-322-1163.


Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com